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An Island with more space and big dreams: Hambantota 2018

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Last update19:54:23 UTC 2018


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An Island with more space and big dreams: Hambantota 2018

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Commonwealth Games is one of the most visible and vibrant events of Commonwealth Nations, an intergovernmental organization that operates within a common framework to achieve shared goals of democracy and development. The world’s large and small, rich and poor countries that are home to two billion people of all faiths and ethnicities constitute the Commonwealth. The member states spread across six continents and oceans: Africa (19), Asia (8), the Americas (2), the Caribbean (12), Europe (3) and the South Pacific (10). The origin of Commonwealth games seems to go back to 1891 since the idea about it was first mooted by Reverend J. Astley in his article written for the magazine, ‘Great Britain’ suggesting “that a festival combining sporting, military and literary events… would draw closer the ties and increase the goodwill and understanding of the Empire”. Inspiration of this suggestion resulted in the first recorded games between the athletes of the empire held in 1911 which was known as the Festival of Empire. The first British Empire game was held in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada. Since then the world witnessed 20 versions of Commonwealth Games yet circulating the position of the host state among a few countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom. The next version will be held in Scotland in 2014. Sri Lanka with the peaceful environs now prevail in the Island after three decades of war is competing with Australia to be the host state of 2018 Commonwealth games and Hambanthota, a fast developing city in Sri Lanka has been named as the host city against Gold Coast in Australia.  


The Co- chairman of the bidding committee of Commonwealth Games 2018, Dr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal observes that the receiving of the host state of the Games by Sri Lanka would be ‘a life changing situation’.  


     Sri Lanka is placed at a level which is very similar to what Malaysia was in 1991 and Malaysia bid for the Common wealth Games in 1998 and 1991 at a time when their macro economic fundamentals as well as the country conditions were very similar to Sri Lanka. Today, I think, Sri Lanka is well poised in the year 2011 to bid for the Games in year 2018 and then hopefully win it which will mean an extraordinary amount of investment and development would be done in the entire country, not only in Hambanthota where the Games are scheduled to be held, but even in other countries there will be business activities that will be generated as a result of Sri Lanka being the host of the Commonwealth Games. In 1998, Malaysia underwent extraordinary changes as a result of the commonwealth games and the development activities that it created. I believe that Sri Lanka also has that opportunity.  (14.06.2011)




Hambantota – CANDIDATE CITY
“It is the dream of architects. There is space to create and build; unlike in Colombo.”
Dr. Cabraal
27. 06.2011


Hambantota, located on the south eastern coast of Sri Lanka and 240 km away from Colombo   is a major city of Southern Province. Hambantota District covers 2,622 sq. km of landmass of the Island. Its unique geographical elements and rich bio- diversity offer the local and foreign visitors a wide range of experiences and memories making it a major tourist destination in the country. Among them, Yala National Park can be identified as a prominent attraction in the area and the oldest and the best known wildlife destination in the country. Consisting of five blocks it boasts of a large population of elephants along with spotted deer, leopard, wild buffalo, sloth bear, jackal, mongoose, pangolins and crocodiles. A panoramic view of the beach and the sea can be captured at Ussangoda where the plateau drops a sheer 60 feet over a rocky escarpment out to the open sea below. It is believed that a meteorite has hit the place which made the soil so barren and the landscape so unusual. Similarly the Blow Hole, Hummanya located in Kudawella makes one exposed to an extraordinary mystery of nature as the sea water rushes through a sunken cavern and is forced upwards creating a natural fountain. The local and foreign bird watchers can earn a great experience visiting Bundala National Park since it is one of the areas in Sri Lanka where the migratory birds flock together. It shelters over 197 species of Birds, including the Great Flamingo, which migrates in large flocks.


Meanwhile the great tanks, stupas, and other historical and religious monuments strewn over the landscape of Hambantota District or the ancient ‘Magama Kingdom’ boast about the long and proud history of the Sri Lankan civilization based on Buddhism. Sithulpawwa ‘the hill of the quiet mind’ where the monks sought refuge in quietness and solitude rises 400 feet from the surrounding forests. The small fishing village of Kirinda assures one with the flourishing scenes of pristine beaches and a great history. And the essence of religious and cultural spirit of the country can be felt during the visits to Kirivehara, one of the sixteen most sacred places of Buddhists in Sri Lanka, Tissamaharamaya, Mulkirigala Monastery and Kataragama.  


People of Hambantota, 92% being literate and 40% employed play a leading role in the engine of prosperity of Sri Lanka   and have been fueled by pragmatism, hard work and flood of individual enterprise. The sources of livelihood are inclusive of agriculture, fisheries, sugar-cane, salt industry and traditional occupations such as iron melting and steel tempering centralized in Angulmaduwa.


Now the ‘winds of change’ have blown across the District of Hambantota assuring its people a comfortable present and a promising future. The first phase of the construction of the Hambantota harbor which is expected to attract 36000 ships that passes Hambanthota has been completed and the International Airport in Hambantota will begin its commercial operations in 2012. Intending to 'promote a balanced and comprehensive regional development in the area,' Hambantota International Convention Center was established in Siribopura, Hambantota, in the year of 2006 with Korean aid. Apart from the IT Park and the hotels that are proposed to be set up in near future, the entire country will benefit massively by the investments directed towards the development of the sports sector in the area. Sri Lanka co-hosted the 2011 cricket World Cup-semi finals in the new cricket stadium in Hambantota adding it to the ICC`s list of main cricket venues in the world. The government’s plans to enhance sports and uplift those to professional levels will come to reality by 2016 with the establishment of the proposed Sports University in Hambantota. Mr. Namal Rajapaksa, a Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament identifies these features as essential infrastructure facilities that contribute in the process of hosting such a sports festival. (30.06.2011)  In the meantime the country will be prepared to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018 by the National Volunteering Program through which all community sports clubs will be encouraged to develop volunteering programmes allowing each community to understand the role of the Commonwealth Games.
Commenting on the fact that Hambantota has been proposed as the host city of the games, the Co- chairman of the Commonwealth Bidding Committee, Dr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal observes that the shackle of Sri Lankan ethos being limited to the Western Province or Colombo has been removed now since we got to “ensure a growth and infrastructure development which spreads right across the nation” (14. 06.2011) in the long run. As such with its unique natural environment, long history, high economic potential and the high amount of investments that will be directed towards the fields of trade, development and sports in near future, the strategic and economic viability of Hambanthota continues to grow in leaps and bounds upon the ashes of Tsunami in 2004 and amidst the peaceful and safe atmosphere now reins the country. The chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation Evaluation Commission, Mrs. Louise Martin from Scotland, remarked as follows, after witnessing the prospects of Hambantota during their four day visit in the country.    


 … the proposal of staging the Commonwealth Games in Hambantota is an exciting one and, given the development of the relevant infrastructure, will provide a unique Games experience for the athletes and other Games client groups, (30.06.2011)


Yet Sri Lanka does not hesitate at any rate to admit the fact brought forth by the Head of the Evaluation Committee regarding the completion of Commonwealth Games City in Hambantota as opposed to the city of Gold Coast in Australia.  


“As you would expect more than seven years out, and with considerable additional work to be done in forming the final Games plan, there are some matters which simply cannot be, or do not need to be, known at this stage. (Mrs. Martin - 30.06.2011)


"The Gold Coast and Australia has a huge advantage because they have already hosted the Commonwealth Games four times," "If they host it again in 2018, it will be the fifth time that they have hosted the Games in a span of 80 years."So they are event ready. "I can only tell you that we are getting ready day by day” (Dr. Cabraal, Co –chairman of the Bidding Committee – 27.06.2011)


Nevertheless the confidence and unwavering determination of Sri Lanka in reaching the status of “readiness’ by 2016 is re – affirmed by the Co – chairmen of the Bidding Committee.   


                  We received the highest appreciations for being the best out of the three hosts of the recently concluded Cricket World Cup and we will repeat the same and all the venues will be ready to host the 2016 South Asian Games which will act as a rehearsal before the big event,” ( Minister of Sports in Sri Lanka, Mahindananda Aluthgamage. (13.06.2011)


We want to assure you that our team Hambantota 2018 will not spare any pains. We will deliver all our promises. (Dr. Cabraal – 30. 06.2011)


And the Chairperson of the Evaluation Committee did acknowledge a “substantial progress” and thus they “have no doubt about the resolve to deliver the necessary infrastructure by 2016.” (30.06.2011) while the Chief Executive Officer of Commonwealth Games Federation, Mr. Mike Hooper asserts that he was “satisfied that if Sri Lanka won the bid, there would be no controversy involving last-minute building work.” (30.06.2011) Significantly the Evaluation Commission thus concluded their mission and task of inspecting the two venues proposed for the Commonwealth Games in 2018 highly appreciating and acknowledging the efforts of both countries:  "The Gold Coast impressed us with what they have on offer, and we are confident that Hambantota has also put together a very comprehensive bid.”(Mrs. Louis Martin - 30.06.2004)


The vision of the Commonwealth Games Federation, as stated in its Constitution is “to promote a unique, friendly, world class Commonwealth Games and to develop sports for the benefit of the people, the nations and the territories of the Commonwealth, and thereby strengthen the Commonwealth”. Unarguably the validity of this statement surpasses the level of Commonwealth. Because the opportunity provided for the active participation of all continents, regions and nations in attaining global tasks would definitely assure a stronger mutual understanding among the countries in the world. In this process all nations irrespective of their economic and military capacities should be given the space and medium to showcase their potential and the unique features that constitute the respective social fabric paving the way to an improved mutual respect for difference and diversity. Mutual understanding and respecting and tolerating difference has been identified as crucial elements in guaranteeing a conflict free environment under multiple circumstances. Thus would not the opportunity for participation and in sharing responsibilities given to all nations affords a solution to the threatening issues of a world caroused by competition, rivalry, conflicts and wars culminated in terrorism? Apparently the answer lies in the Reverend J. Astley’s suggestion for a common festival of sports, made in 1891 that is worth repeating:  a festival combining sporting, military and literary events… would draw closer the ties and increase the goodwill and understanding of the Empire”. In the absence of the empire, sports and games continue to serve as a mode of promoting peace, harmony and cooperation among nations and communities via world and regional sporting festivals and Commonwealth Games is no exception.


In this exercise rotating the responsibility of hosting and organizing the event among capable nations is an imperative as it would enable each member state to expand its existing potential allowing the benefits to be extended to the citizens as well as to the region. According to Dr. Cabraal, during the “last 80 years just four nations: Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have  hosted the Commonwealth Games 17 times out of the 20 times that it was held”(14.06.2011). In other words, these four countries and their respective regions are repeatedly given the space to empower themselves further with the gains of the Games. This of course is a proof of an uneven representation and recognition of nations and unequal distribution of wealth that seems to contribute in labeling the countries in the world as rich or poor, strong or weak and developing or developed. Evidently the authorities responsible for this act of ‘labeling’ identify the existence of ‘poor, weak and developing nations’ as opposed to the ‘rich, strong and developed’.  Yet does this identification necessarily imply that the gulf between these two groups should exist and be ever on increase dividing the human race in to two halves?


This question is worth asking for the reason that alleviation of poverty, curbing the divisions in the society and empowering the ‘third world’ appears to have been limited to the global forums and discussions. If we genuinely look forward to achieve theses challenges, the weak should be strengthened: the poor should be armed with the opportunity and space to attempt, struggle, grow and proceed. The lack and the deficit should be filled. But adding to the surplus does not prove a sensible solution in this process. It tends to cause more serious damage than being unproductive as it aggravates the competition and rivalry fueled by inequity, disparity and injustice among the nations in the world. If it continues the humanity may fall a victim of itself.  Thus the time is ripe to stop further disproportion and abridge the gulf.  And Commonwealth Games 2018 has endowed the world with a promising juncture in this regard because “some of the other nations came up and said they would be happy to host the Games and they must show their ability to host the Games as well.” (Dr. Cabraal - 14.06.2011) Australia having hosted the Games four times already, invites the world to “share the great Australian spirit” and join in their bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games while Sri Lanka, budding amidst its peaceful environs, is on her way to create a legacy, “together, from the heart”. If it is Sri Lanka’s turn to host the Games in 2018, it may open the doors of opportunity to other competent nations as well. Then the vision of the Commonwealth Games Federation to “strengthen the Commonwealth” can truly be witnessed and sensed in action.    


          
Saumya Samaranayake



Acknowledgements
Dr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal – Governor of Central Bank, Sri Lanka
www.hambantota.com
www.goldcoast2018bid.com


     

Living and Travel


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